Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 June 2018) . . Page.. 2070 ..
Hopefully, there is a solution to the problem for Mitchell. The budget has funding to start working towards a Mitchell light rail stop. This will be a relief to the traders association and hopefully will reverse the decline that the Mitchell traders have experienced.
To conclude, the impacts on business from infrastructure works can be severe but financial compensation is rarely the most appropriate option. I am pleased to hear and see that Minister Fitzharris has been working on a large number of non-financial compensation steps that the government can take to help businesses impacted by light rail construction work, and that the government has promised to do more. The Greens will therefore be supporting the minister’s amendment.
MISS C BURCH (Kurrajong) (12.06): I thank Mr Milligan for raising this important issue here today and for all his hard work in fighting for local small businesses in Gungahlin and Mitchell—small businesses that this government has completely left behind. We have been told by this government time and again that the economic benefits flowing from light rail will be significant and diverse, that construction will be quick and painless and that any adverse impacts from the construction phase will be minor and unlikely. But as we have heard from Mr Milligan, the impact on local retailers and businesses has been anything but minor. This Labor-Greens government has failed these local businesses, either due to sheer incompetence or perhaps total indifference. Either way, something must be done.
Local traders are being hit hard in both Mitchell and Gungahlin, as footpaths close, traffic is diverted and noise and air pollution disrupt their business. Locals cannot find anywhere to park nearby, and the noise inside many shops is intolerable. As a result, these businesses have seen a significant decline in trade—in some instances by more than 50 per cent. This naturally leads to job losses and downsizing as small businesses struggle to survive.
These small businesses are now emotional and frustrated. They are emotional due to the incredibly difficult decisions that they now face—decisions whether to downsize and move to smaller premises, decisions whether to let go of staff, staff who have worked for them for many years and in some instances are basically family, decisions whether to just throw in the towel, give up on their dreams and close up all together. These small businesses are frustrated—frustrated by the extraordinary disregard and neglect this government has shown them over the past 18 months. Small business is of course the backbone of the ACT economy, and the loss of well-established businesses in this area will have a profound, long-term impact on the Gungahlin economy.
Of course, there are always going to be costs incurred by business, particularly small, when big construction projects like this take place. But what any responsible government should do is provide adequate compensation for these businesses and retailers who are affected. And it is very disappointing that the minister has today ruled out financial compensation.
Whilst we welcome the government’s recent announcement to again include the Mitchell light rail stop, this means that, upon backflipping twice over the Mitchell